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Carlisle v Stockport: Late drama sends 2023 League Two Playoff Final to shootout

The winners of Carlisle v Stockport have been confirmed after late drama send the 2023 League Two Playoff Final to a shootout.

Coming into this game, we knew that Stockport had finished finished fourth in the regular season, with Carlisle in fifth three points behind.

The Cumbrians were last in League One in the 2013-14 season while Stockport were looking for back-to-back promotions and first time in League One since 2009-10.

Earlier this season, Stockport won 2-0 at home and draw 2-2 away when they came up against Carlisle.

Only the top three teams and Salford spent more days than Carlisle in the top seven of League Two.

Automatic promotion seemed to be in the offing when they returned to third place on the 7th of April, but only one win out of their six final matches meant that they were forced to settle for playoffs.

Simpson’s side won the second leg in extra time despite losing the first 1-0 leg at Bradford, giving them 3-2 win on aggregate and were in an EFL Playoff Final for the first time ever.

Many expected Dave Challinor’s team to play a role in the promotion shake up in League Two, but the EFL season started slowly for them.

In October, they were 19th after only two victories in their first 11 league matches.

Then, after a 1-0 win for AFC Wimbledon, they started to click into gear, and only lost one of their last 18 league games, allowing them to enter the final day still in contention for that last automatic promotion spot.

Northampton’s victory over Tranmere however sent them into a playoff with Salford City.

The Ammies had a 1-0 advantage going into the second leg at Edgeley Park, but the Hatters won on penalties following a thrilling 2-2 draw.

So then, how did the game play out, we take a look below…

The first chance of the game came 2 minutes as Antoni Sarcevic cut inside his man and lifted in a cross for Paddy Madden, only for his clever header to fall on to the roof of the net.

Then on 10 minutes, Stockport’s Akil Wright looked up and spotted the run of Isaac Olaofe and delivered a teasing ball, but while under pressure, the striker could’t apply the final touch.

Halfway through the first half, and it was a cagey one, the first big chance for Carlisle as Owen Moxon planted a brilliant free-kick onto the head of Joe Garner, who got plenty behind his header, only to be put behind by Ben Hinchliffe.

Carlisle’s Jon Mellish went into the book for a tackle with Isaac Olaofe’s back to him.

Callum Camps then found Paddy Madden – who opted to move the ball on – but sent to ball wide to please Carlisle fans.

They weren’t smiling long however as on 34 minutes, Paddy Madden held the ball up and set a counter in motion, with the ball findng Olaofe on the right-hand side.

He stood up to his man Jon Mellish looked to send a cross in only for it to hit the defender’s foot, loomed over Tomas Holy and into the back of the net.

The 38th minute and Carlisle needed urgency. Their man Callum Guy smashed fierce one from 25 yards, but well-blocked.

Fraser Horsfall conceded possession to Joel Senior, who went forward and should have sent John-Kymani Gordon through, only to take too long before taking his chance and Akil Wright intervened well enough.

It was advantage Stockport come half time, the own goal separating both sides. Paul Simpson’s men threatening a leveller as the half came to a close.

Chris Lumsdon (Former Carlisle midfielder on BBC Radio Cumbria): “Stockport have a really strong midfield and they are a tough team to play against.

“But an encouraging end to the first half from Carlisle who have shown plenty of times this season that they can step it up a gear and come from behind.

“There is still 45 minutes left, it’s going to be an exciting second half.”

Stephen O’Halloran (Ex-Salford and Stockport defender on BBC Radio Manchester): “It’s been difficult watching it. It’s a really tight game and County have taken their chance.

“Isaac Olaofe is putting himself in the right areas. He’s been brilliant over the last few months.

“Going into half-time, Dave Challinor will be really happy but there’s still 45 minutes to go.

“They need to make sure there’s no silly mistakes.”

The second half began with Paddy Madden getting his head on another ball that came in though this went even further over the bar than his earlier one in the first half.

On 57 minutes, Stockport really messed up a crucial chance to make it 2-0.

Chris Hussey put in a ball into the box, where the unmarked Akil Wright connected with it perfectly, yet somehow the header went wide of the right-hand post.

64 minutes and Carlisle fans were getting frustrated with Stockport being allowed to counter following a foul a few yards outside the area. Isaac Olaofe went on, before Joel Senior put in a great block.

With just under 20 minutes left on the clock, Corey Whelan clashed his knees with Myles Hippolyte as the latter attempted to take the ball through on goal. All bandaged up and played on.

We were finally treated to some excitement, Myles Hippolyte went for an overhead kick from 18 yards and it dropped just over the bar.

Then a huge moment with Jon Mellish’s shot cleared on the line – and according to Carlisle fans and players by a hand, VAR looked at it and the referee Tom Nield gave nothing.

It didn’t matter anyway as on 84 minutes, Carlisle got the equaliser as Joel Senior’s cross found its way to the centre of the box, with Fraser Horsfall sliding to clear, the ball however met Omari Patrick and he found the bottom left corner.

Liam Hogan (former Stockport defender on BBC Radio Manchester): “The moment just before with the handball, it was a similar ball and this one finds the feet of Omari Patrick and that’s the composure we were talking about earlier.

“To be fair to him he passes it into the bottom corner and it’s an excellent, composed finish in such a high-profile game.”

Shortly after, Mellish wanted a penalty after barging into the back of Ryan Rydel, but the decision didn’t go his way.

Extra time saw either side fail to get a winner, so it went down to a penalty shootout.


Carlisle –
Stockport – ✔️ (Evans)

Carlisle – ✔️ (Dennis)
Stockport – ✔️ 

Carlisle – ✔️ 
Stockport – ✔️❌ (Rydel)

Carlisle – ✔️✔️ (Mellish)
Stockport – ✔️❌ 

Carlisle – ✔️✔️
Stockport – ✔️❌✔️ (Hippolyte) 

Carlisle – ✔️✔️
Stockport – ✔️❌✔️ (Hippolyte) 

Carlisle – ✔️✔️✔️ (Edmondson) 
Stockport – ✔️❌✔️ 

Carlisle – ✔️✔️✔️ 
Stockport – ✔️❌✔️✔️  (Stretton) 

Carlisle – ✔️✔️✔️✔️ (Moxon) 
Stockport – ✔️❌✔️✔️

Carlisle – ✔️✔️✔️✔️ 
Stockport – ✔️❌✔️✔️✔️ (Collar)

Carlisle – ✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️ 
Stockport – ✔️❌✔️✔️✔️ 

Carlisle’s Taylor Charters on Sky Sports Football: “I can’t put it into words. A boyhood Carlisle fan to score the winning penalty in the play-off final just means the world.”

Carlisle goalkeeper Tomas Holy on Sky Sports Football: “I’m not a hero. These guys are heroes, because they had to run for 120 minutes. They are my heroes.”

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk on Sky Sports Football: “It’s been absolutely phenomenal. What I’ve seen is the togetherness in the group, it’s been huge.

“It’s not the standout players but the best sum of the parts together. They do that very well. It wasn’t about the eleven, it was about the whole squad.

“That was to do with Simpson and his man-management skills.”

Liam Hogan (former Stockport defender on BBC Radio Manchester): “It’s a massive blow. If you got back to open play, the Akil Wright moment, we could have sealed the win in normal time.

“When the dust settles there will be a realisation of what they’ve achieved this season. Playing an event like the League Two final is a massive achievement in itself.

“Within the club there’s a big foundation and this could be a stepping stone to keep progressing.

“There’s a squad there that they can build but it will be a strong league next season with the likes of Wrexham and Notts County coming up.

“To be so close, going back into the dressing room having lost will be a massive disappointment.”

Chris Lumsdon (Former Carlisle midfielder on BBC Radio Cumbria): “Carlisle turned-up today.

“They turned-up, with a lot of courage and they just kept going.

“A fantastic performance from them against a really tough opponent in Stockport.”

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